In 1967, the Holy Modal Rounders were signed to ESP-Disk. One of Peter Stampfel’s first missions was to get the Rounders’ co-conspirator, Michael Hurley, signed as well. To this end, Hurley cut a solo demo and sent it down to NYC. One of the tunes featured Hurley on his signature mock trumpet, but ESP’s Bernard Stollman was not impressed. “What’s this guy trying to do,” Stollman asked. “Sing with his mouth closed? And why is everything so slow?” Stampfel replied, “Well, he’s kind of like an amphetamine head in reverse.” The ESP deal was off, but a certain creative template was invented — The Twilight Zone — and it is one that has been adopted by the Western Mass trio, Frozen Corn.
The band is comprised of Joshua Burkett, Chris Carlton and Anthony Pasquarosa. Each of them has a sterling musical rep, and more recordings than you can easily name, but Frozen Corn is a special kind of project. Together, the three of them perform covers of proto-bluegrass tunes, most first recorded in Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia in the late 1920s. This stuff was just called folk music back then (bluegrass wasn’t an actual classification until the late ’40s), but the tunes of guys like Bascom Lamar Lunsford, Clarence Ashley and Doc Boggs were the base on which the speed-damaged rave-ups of bluegrass were founded. Frozen Corn also cover a couple of trad songs, plus “Summer’s Night,” a song written in the Twilight Zone style by the late British banjo player, Clive Palmer (one of the founders of the Incredible String Band).
Using two banjos and a guitar, Frozen Corn turn these hillbilly howls (remember the Rounders’ own version of “Cuckoo”) into slow-wound meditations on form and function. And their deep monotonic vocal riffs by either Chris or Tony (Josh stays mum) work almost like raga singing in terms of achieving The Zone. It’s related to bluegrass and old timey music, but it comes from an alternate universe. A universe in which the transportational qualities of Frozen Corn’s sound can not be overstated.
Those wishing to visit The Zone can now easily grab an earful. Free your ass and do it.